Encounter with Meryem Sebti, Founder of Diptyk
Encounter with Meryem Sebti, Founder of Diptyk
You are the founder, director of publication, and chief editor of Diptyk, a magazine which focuses on the contemporary art in morocco. Also you have created a digital counterpart of the magazine on line. Would you please introduce to our readers this magazine with the unusual name? and tell us how and at what stage in your life did you get the idea to create an Art magazine?
I held several jobs in the press during my life. And I studied literature and history of art at the University in Paris. In 2008, when Hicham Daoudi* proposed to me to work on an art magazine in Morocco, I thought it was a great opportunity to finally do what I had been formed to do. The idea was to create an art magazine focused on the Arab world. At that time, the European art community was so curious about the Arab World. Remember 2009 edition of Paris Photo which was focused on Arab and Iranian photography….
We decided the title would be "Diptyk" in reference to a Diptych in painting: a painting made of two pieces which are separate, and yet to be read as a whole. This is to symbolize the fact that in Morocco our identity is always dual, whether you consider yourself as Berber, Jewish, Muslim, Arab, African or Mediterranean. This title, with the letter "k" instead of the classical "ch”, gave us the necessary "swag" for this type of project, not to mention all the graphic possibilities…. With this title and its explanation, we actually had our editorial statement.
*(ndlr: owner of Art Holding Morocco, private art dealer, auctioneer, founder of Marrakech Art Fair)
Are you an artist yourself?
I am not an artist, but all my life I have been sensitive to art, being quite a good pianist as a young woman (not anymore unfortunately…) and always attracted first to the aesthetic side of any topic or issue.
Was it easy for you as a young woman in Morocco, which , I suppose, is a male society , to cut a place for yourself in the media world? Was the French language an advantage or a handicap in realizing your aim?
I must confess that being a woman is and isn't a problem in Morocco: it depends on how you have been educated and the society in which you have been raised… My parents, as well as the French school in which I studied gave me the necessary strength to fight the possible prejudices of a so called male society.
In addition to that, in Morocco, the French language press is a very feminine context.
Your question about the language is very pertinent. Actually, when you choose a language, you also choose your audience. In Morocco, if you choose French, you definitely cut yourself from a possible massive audience. That’s why I am thinking of producing an Arabic translation of the magazine to reach this audience. And I mean intellectual, post-Independence young people, and students, etc…
What is the stand of the Moroccan woman or the North African women in general, in the face of the challenges they have to face because of the rise of religious extremism ?
We women of the open minded "bourgeoisie" have a huge responsibility as the consequence of the easy and lucky life we lead. We must lead the way to a possible freedom through work and personal achievement. We have to occupy the public space with our presence, and keep our voice loud and never give up.
But nothing of all this is possible without education...
What are the main issues treated in your magazine ?
We follow artists from Morocco, North Africa, the Arab world and Africa, and also artists of diaspora all over the world. We try to point out that they help the societies they are living in to open windows. Windows that open on new territories to be explored, in the domains of religion, politics, social issues, identity, etc...
Do you think your magazine or any similar magazine, may contribute to the creation of an authentic Art movement? Or is it simply a commercial outlet to artists and galleries?
I wish Diptyk were an outlet for galleries (laughs…)
It isn't, definitely. And to make it clear, it isn't a lucrative project...
To be serious, Diptyk tries to assume a very strategic responsibility. Many young artists of the emerging Moroccan art scene have had their first paper (portrait, critics) published in Diptyk! I believe that international curators read these papers when focusing on Morocco! (This is, for example, the case for Jean-Hubert Martin while working on his Moroccan Contemporary show at the Institut du Monde Arabe in 2014: he read the whole collection)
On the last page of Diptyk you will find "l'incubateur": this paper tries to find out the next artist before he blossoms!
Yes I think, without false modesty, that we contribute to an authentic art movement.
In your opinion where do you place the Moroccan contemporary Art on the art map of the world? or the Moroccan artists in particular? if you can name some…
In a context of globalization, I would say that any young Moroccan artist being talented and lucky could be the next Marcel Duchamp Prize, or at least have the chance to have his work exhibited, in the Palais de Tokyo or Biennale of Lyon! Take Hicham Berrada, who knew him 3 years ago? Now he works with Kamel Mennour gallery in Paris and shows his work in the Palais de Tokyo, Biennale de Lyon!!!
Young Moroccan artists, particularly those emerging from the Beaux Arts of Tetouan (North Morocco) are ready for any success story, because some of them found the perfect mix of personal issues/technical skills and good understanding of what is contemporary art...
Do you have points of sale for Diptyk in Lebanon? Europe?
Diptyk is distributed in Morocco, in France also (at museum shops like IMA, Palais de Tokyo; MUCEM; bookshops like Artcurial).
It is also distributed through subscriptions, as well as the online digital copy. Unfortunately, we have no points of sale in Lebanon.